Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda
a book by Noam Chomsky
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that: Noam Chomsky’s backpocket classic on wartime propaganda and opinion control begins by asserting two models of democracy—one in which the public actively participates, and one in which the public is manipulated and controlled. According to Chomsky, "propaganda is to democracy as the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state," and the mass media is the primary vehicle for delivering propaganda in the United States. From an examination of how Woodrow Wilson’s Creel Commission "succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population," to Bush Sr.'s war on Iraq, Chomsky examines how the mass media and public relations industries have been used as propaganda to generate public support for going to war.
Chomsky further touches on how the modern public relations industry has been influenced by Walter Lippmann’s theory of "spectator democracy," in which the public is seen as a "bewildered herd" that needs to be directed, not empowered; and how the public relations industry in the United States focuses on "controlling the public mind," and not on informing it. Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda is an invaluable primer on the secret workings of disinformation in democratic societies. See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.
The American public has been choking on misinformation for the last century—they just didn't know it because they weren't told, and they weren't told because we didn't/don't have the free press we are told we have
“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”—A. J. Liebling
Other Chomsky books related to propaganda: Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World, Letters From Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda, and Propaganda and the Public Mind
It may be that propaganda is to democracy as the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state, but in our totalitarian democracy propaganda is, functionally, a bludgeon for the mind
Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda is a seminal study of how the mainstream U.S. media works together with the U.S. government and its corporate interests to undermine democracy. See Democracy—an American Delusion. It may be that propaganda is to democracy as the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state, but in our totalitarian democracy propaganda is, functionally, a bludgeon for the mind.
According to Chomsky, ". . . contemporary politics forces us to ask what
kind of a world and what kind of a society we
want to live in, and in particular in what sense of democracy do we want this to be a democratic society? Let me begin by counter-posing two different conceptions of democracy. One
conception of democracy has it that a democratic society is one in which the public has the
means to participate in some meaningful way
in the management of their own affairs and the
means of information are open and free. If you
look up democracy in the dictionary you'll get
a definition something like that."
"An alternative conception of democracy is that the public must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. That may sound like an odd conception of democracy, but it's important to understand that it is the prevailing conception. In fact, it has long been, not just in operation, but even in theory. There's a long history that goes back to the earliest modern democratic revolutions in seventeenth century England which largely expresses this point of view. I'm just going to keep to the modern period and say a few words about how that notion of democracy develops and why and how the problem of media and disinformation enters within that context."
There is no such thing at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press—we are the tools of rich men behind the scenes—we are jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance—Journalist John Swinton, New York Press Club, 1953
Some liberal democratic theorists and
leading media figures also got attracted by these anti-democratic
successes: E.g., Walter Lippmann, the dean of American
journalists, was a major foreign and domestic policy critic but he was also a major theorist of "liberal
democracy." Purusing his collected essays, you'll see that they're subtitled something like A Progressive Theory of Liberal Democratic Thought. His idea of "progressive" is at odds with Chomsky, us, and most Americans. Lippmann was involved in these propaganda commissions and
recognized their wins for the powers-that-be. He argued that
a perversion of democracy—which he called "a revolution in the art of
democracy," could be used to "manufacture consent," that is, to deceive the public about things that they didn't want—convincing them that they did, by the new techniques of propaganda. Note that his idea of liberal democracy is very different from the accepted, standard definition. This standard definition of liberal democracy is what elites tell the bewildered herd they enjoy, but Lippmann's "progressive" idea of democracy is the operational definition to the elites in theory and in practice.
Lippmann convinced himself that this propaganda-based model of democracy was a good and needed thing. It was needed because the common interests of the elites are not the interests of the public sheep and they can only be understood and managed by a "specialized class of responsible men" who are smart enough to figure things out. This type of elitist thinking existed in some framers of the Constitution (as remnants of English aristocratic thinking) but not in others. The idea is that the public is too stupid to do anything but muck up government-related decisions, so voting needs to be a sham that merely corrals the sheep into political corral one or political corral two—both of which are acceptable to the elites. Thoughts of genuine alternatives not favored by the elites needed to be demonized as unpatriotic or foolish by ongoing propaganda campaigns. This is why us sheep cannot vote to stay out of wars, to stop increasing the debt, to force elites to tell the truth, or to adopt democracy in deed as well as in word. Elites have it good and there's no way they'll permit real change or true alternatives to their illicit ways.
U.S. neocons' imperialism and warmongering is out of control yet the Congress tasked with stopping such abuses is mute—something smells rotten in Washington! The game is rigged.
Example: the invasion of Iraq was unpopular with the public so lying propaganda campaigns about WMDs and connections between Iraq and 9/11 and imminent "mushroom clouds over Manhattan" (as Cheney said on talk shows) were used to terrify the sheep into submission so they felt the invasion was a good idea. The purpose was to get control of Iraqi oil and to indulge in war profiteering as oligarchs' weapons and construction corporations (e.g., Halliburton) received very profitable government contracts. Who paid for the war, the destruction and rebuilding of Iraq, the mercenaries we hired, etc.? You guessed it: the American taxpayer. So the whole scam from the elites was to rob us of trillions of dollars to stuff into elite oligarch money bins. Elites believe, somewhat Calvinistically, that they're the predestined elect and they deserve to get our money from us because, after all, we're merely sheep. In other words, their crap doesn't stink, but ours does. No wonder we dislike these damned elites so much!
Elites believe their crap doesn't stink, but ours does. No wonder we dislike these damned elites so much!
In the U.S. totalitarian democracy, we all get a chance: the rich get a chance to get richer, and the nonrich are allowed the honor of paying the bill
Elites terrified citizens into WWI, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Panamaniam War, and the Iraq/Afghanistan War. They did it by lying. The lies were the main feature of their extensive propaganda campaigns. The campaigns were prosecuted via TV (except for WWI), radio, and newspapers, and more recently via social media. They fabricated atrocities committed by the enemies and elicited jingoistic fervor. Dozens of people knew what a load of baloney the extensive propaganda campaigns were, but they were elites—in on the scam that was sure to get citizens supporting warmongering efforts. It proved that state propaganda was a surefire tactic to get citizen support for anything, as Hitler had proved beyond the slightest doubt. And the bigger and more outrageous the lies, the more effective they were.
Dozens of people knew what a load of baloney the extensive propaganda campaigns were, but they were elites—in on the scam that was sure to get citizens supporting warmongering efforts
The problem with the bewildered herd is that it can never truly be tamed, only contained. And so propaganda—the whip of the lion tamer—must be ever-present to numb the herd into reluctant obedience. If you believe like the elites that they know best, that we are too dumb to understand anything about government or world affairs, that if we had real input we'd muck things up, and it is critical to give the bewildered herd the illusion of control, input, democracy and participation, then you will be grateful they are taking care of us
But if you believe like us and Chomsky that we need meaningful democracy, not just the pretense, then you will want to support the movements and politicians that are nudging things in that direction
But if you believe like us and Chomsky that we need meaningful democracy, not just the pretense, then you will want to support the movements and politicians that are nudging things in that direction.
The problem with the bewildered herd is that it can never truly be tamed, only contained. And so propaganda—the whip of the lion tamer—must be ever-present to numb the herd into reluctant obedience
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the elites running things is this: are they doing it for our good or for their good? Are we pushed into wars that put us in deep debt and kill innocents for our own good or for theirs? The answers seem obvious, right? Chomsky, with absolute brilliance, gives us the specific and detailed answer to these questions about wealth and power in Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, the most important book of the 21st century. If you read only one book per year, or per lifetime, THIS MUST BE THE BOOK!
Totalitarian fascism or totalitarian democracy were very similar, and both had the goal of leading naive and gullible citizens to think things and do things that they were against before the hysterical propaganda campaigns kicked in, turning on their fear as they turned off their thinking brains. There is nothing like images of mushroom clouds over Manhattan to get the public to heel.
There is nothing like images of mushroom clouds over Manhattan to get the public to heel
In a totalitarian democracy, the public must be barred from managing their own affairs, and the means of information are kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. This is the prevailing conception, both in theory and operation, although the politicians will not admit it and you will not find such definitions in high school civics or history books. In that textbook version of democracy, the public must be allowed to participate in a meaningful way in the management of their own affairs, and the means of information are open and free. There's a free press. But this idea of democracy is a delusion, as is the free press idea. See Democracy—an American Delusion and Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.
Chomsky says that if you plan on serving the interests of the elites—the people with real power rather than the bewildered herd, you have to keep your plan concealed, as you must maintain the illusion of being a public servant (as opposed to serving private, elite interests). But you also need to have instilled in you the beliefs and doctrines that will serve the interests of private power while keeping up the pretense of having the citizens' interests at heart. Once you instill such beliefs and doctrines in your soul, you are ready to play the game of serving the interests of the oligarchs of the shadow government as you spout public-spirited drek (e.g., Make America Great Again) while you work only for the elites and serve private power.
All politicians must play the game of serving the interests of the oligarchs of the shadow government as they spout public-spirited drek (e.g., Make America Great Again)
With the Trump presidency, the same pretense of serving the public was maintained as Trump and the G.O.P. struggled to keep straight faces about how "the people would benefit greatly" from their "middle class tax cut" which everyone knew was only a huge tax cut for the rich and the rich corporations. Anyone who could read would learn about their plan to rob the nonrich and divide the booty up among the rich. But the public had been pepper-sprayed with a year long demagogic campaign of lies, fake news, denials, media wars about who the biggest liars were, until the desired result was achieved: loss of faith in truth. People had no way to determine the truth, so they just stayed with Trump's assurances. Trump's denial of obvious reality paralleled the public's break with reality. This classic confounding of reality, truth, and objectivity is right out of the demagogue's playbook. On the way to authoritarian control, you pull the rug out from under reality itself, so that when the power grab is completed, the people are too confused to see what is going on.
Trump and the G.O.P. struggled to keep straight faces about how the citizens would benefit greatly from their 'middle class tax cut' which everyone knew was only a huge tax cut for the rich and the rich corporations
Trump has already gotten about as much power as he will be allowed to get, however, since he doesn't play well with others, seems to be mentally unbalanced, and is trusted by few people if any, since he is dangerously unstable and there are discussions of a middleman between him and our nukes. Trump has the beliefs and doctrines that will serve the interests of private power, so he qualifies for the elite's scam game. Except he will mostly just serve the interests of his own private power, rather than all elite power holders of the shadow government. He doesn't share. For his whole morals challenged life, his goal has been to win. Having won the White House via demagogeury, he now will try not to share since sharing means he doesn't win all the marbles—he has to share them with other oligarchs like the Kochs, Rupert Murdock, Dick Cheney, the Bushes, etc. There's a chance he will learn to share, but it will be contrary to his psychological makeup, so he'll be dragged kicking and screaming to the sharing room.
- Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
- The Kochs Are Inching Closer to Becoming Media Moguls
- Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market
- Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
So we have one kind of educational system directed to the responsible men, the specialized class. They have to be deeply indoctrinated in the values and interests of private power and the state-corporate nexus that represents it. If they can achieve that, then they can be part of the specialized class. And we have another kind of educational system directed to the bewildered herd, and it champions textbooks and lectures that spew the party line, the lies, the whitewashes, the coverups, the CW dictated by the elites. This combination of truth and propaganda calms the nerves of the bewildered herd—telling them what they need to hear to feel secure in their corrals and pastures, knowing they are being well looked after. It's all a fraud but they don't know that. However, there are books that tell the truth, such as anything from Noam Chomsky and The Concise Untold History of the United States, a book by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. For more, see Articles and The Forest Through The Trees.
Our dual education system corrals the bewildered herd into pens where they're fed propaganda, while it indoctrinates elite values into a few chosen elite—they'll be running the show or assisting those who run it
Let's recall German pastor Martin Niemöller‘s famous quote: "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
If we ever lose our alternative media websites and publishers, all is lost and fascistic stormtroopers will be goosestepping their way to our door, since the mainstream press reports none of the plans of the elites
Republicans are trying to drive us headlong in the most regressive direction ever attempted, wiping out a century of progress just to enrich a few immoral, greedy oligarchs, all the while lying through their teeth saying they're making America great again. And they're letting the environment and the climate be colateral damage—casualties of insane levels of blind, rabid, snarling greed in which the good of the many is sacrificed for the good of the very few. Isn't this the aristocratic thinking the colonists rebelled against when they rejected England's rule by King George? Are we in the USA condemned to have to go through all that once again in order to create the United States of America 2.0, only this time it's oligarchs, not kings, we must resist? See Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
If we can accept totalitarian democracy, then can totalitarian autocracy be far behind? Protestors in 2017 often get harrassed, maced, beaten, and jailed, all of which is illegal, immoral, and anti-democratic. But it happens—in our "democracy." The right to assemble and protest is part of democracy. But the elites in charge absolutely do not want changes to or elimination of their current totalitarian control as they con the bewildered herd in our current totalitarian democracy, so they squash protest. They would support a bloody coup resulting in totalitarian autocracy way sooner than they'd relinquish power. In all of history, when did you ever see anyone voluntarily relinquish power?
The elites in charge absolutely do not want changes to or elimination of their current totalitarian control as they con the bewildered herd, so they squash protest
A recent CBS poll finds that “Americans see their leaders in Washington as overpaid agents of wealthy individuals and corporations who are largely disconnected from the concerns of average Americans.” So perhaps something works better than democracy, because democracy is working very poorly for all but the infamous 1%. That is why the 99% did the Occupy Wall Street protest, which had no effect on the fatcat bigwigs but they spoke for most of us with their frustration and disappointment even though the corrupted, bought-and-paid-for media flunkies downplayed it and the authorities oppressed it, sometimes violently, sending the message that "your dreams of democracy in which the right to protest is protected by the Constitution are no longer valid: the elites run things and you saps are seen as troublemakers who the elites want spanked, so spank we shall do and you 99%ers can like it or leave and Constitution be damned." And that, then, was the essense of the event: Constitution be damned.
Wall Street Protest: Occupy Wall Street—Copyright © 2011 by Louis Lanzano
'You know, Archibald, my bladder is a tad too full—do these windows open? I'd like to send my regards to those pesky OWS protesters'
"It is worth considering what separates liberal democracies from what the great Israeli historian Jacob Talmon referred to as totalitarian democracies. Liberal democracies are founded on the notion that it is not simply acceptable for citizens to participate in debates about the issues facing their societies. It is admirable for citizens in democracies to participate in debates—even heated ones—about their government’s policies as well as their societies’ cultural and moral direction. A citizenry unengaged is a citizenry that is in danger of losing its freedom." (Source: Column One: Breivik and totalitarian democrats, Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post)
Of course, the Occupy Wall Street protest was a conversation from the 99% to the 1%. Rather than pretending the corruption and injustice they saw and experienced was a harmless figment of their imagination, they did their best to engage peacefully with the Wall Street fat cats, telling them, the media, and the American public that their pain was real. They were a citizenry engaged so they should not be a citizenry that is in danger of losing its freedom. And yet they were—and are. A totalitarian democracy like the U.S. has is a con job and a pretense—a totalitarian-wolf system in democracy-sheep clothing.
A totalitarian democracy like the U.S. has is a con job and a pretense—a totalitarian-wolf system in democracy-sheep clothing